Jonathan the Tortoise: World’s oldest living land animal celebrates 191st birthday

Jonathan the Tortoise: World’s oldest living land animal celebrates 191st birthday

St. Helena's revered national treasure, predating the era of telephones, remains in robust health and is expected to live to his third century.

Jonathan, the world's oldest living terrestrial creature and a Seychelles giant tortoise, recently celebrated his 191st birthday.

Coming into existence around 1832, Jonathan predates significant innovations such as the introduction of postal stamps, the invention of the telephone, and the development of photography.

This iconic tortoise has witnessed the entire U.S. Civil War, most of Queen Victoria's reign, the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, and both World Wars.

Residing on the island of Saint Helena since 1882, Jonathan has gracefully weathered the passage of time, including periods of historical significance.

Notably, he has shared a 26-year companionship with another male tortoise, showcasing his ability to adapt and thrive in various circumstances.

Jonathan not only holds the title of the world's oldest living terrestrial creature but also stands as the most senior member of the chelonian family, a reptile class encompassing tortoises, turtles, and terrapins.

Recognized as a national treasure in St Helena, Jonathan is featured on the reverse side of the local five pence coin. Despite being blind and lacking a sense of smell, he freely roams the grounds of the Governor's house.

Jonathan at Plantation House | St Helena Island
Photo: StHelena

According to his veterinarian, Joe Hollins, Jonathan is currently in good health, and the available indicators suggest optimism that he may well reach his third century, if not already achieved. The exact date of his birth remains uncertain, with his age estimated based on his full maturity upon arriving on the island in 1882, suggesting he was at least 50 years old at that time.

The St Helena Island website acknowledges the uncertainty surrounding Jonathan's birthday, drawing a parallel with the arbitrary assignment of celebration dates, such as the commemoration of Jesus's birthday on December 25 without concrete evidence of its actual occurrence.

Age is no barrier to leading a fulfilling life, and Jonathan the Tortoise, at the impressive age of 191, exemplifies this truth.

In the 1980s, Jonathan experienced considerable irritability attributed to loneliness. However, he found solace and companionship in 1991 when he formed a bond with a mate named Frederica. Despite the absence of offspring from their union, it took 26 years to unveil the mystery that Frederica was, in fact, male.

Jonathan's enduring vitality includes a "good libido," as noted by his longtime veterinarian. According to Joe Hollins, Jonathan is frequently observed engaging in mating behavior with Emma and occasionally with Fred, showcasing a lack of sensitivity to gender distinctions in animals.

Despite losing his sense of smell and virtually becoming blind due to cataracts, Jonathan shows no signs of slowing down in life. His voracious appetite persists, and a dedicated team ensures his well-being by hand-feeding him a nourishing mix of fruits and vegetables once a week. This regimen not only supplements his calorie intake but also provides essential elements for his metabolism, including vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. The Guinness World Records, who closely monitor Jonathan's activities, attest to his ongoing vitality and well-maintained condition.

Jonathan predates several significant inventions, including the first modern bicycle (1885), the commercial lightbulb (1879), the first powered airship (1852), the photograph (1839), and the revolver (1836).

Photo: steve_is_on_holiday